Trusting in the Steelers' defense

| Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009

TAMPA, Fla. — Sure, the Arizona Cardinals are a hot team and a great story entering Super Bowl XLIII against the Steelers this evening at Raymond James Stadium.

The Cardinals weren't supposed to be here, given their 9-7 record during the regular season, but here they are.

So much for great stories.

Arizona has been hot for a month. The Steelers have been a hot team all season.

With the Steelers, you know exactly what you're going to get. The Steelers have experienced very few highs and lows, while Arizona has been all over the place.

The Steelers' defense has established itself among the best of all-time. And a great defense will stop a great offense every time.

And that's assuming Arizona's offense is great. It's not.

Great offenses don't rank No. 32 in rushing. That's right, the Cardinals had the worst running game in the league this season. But no one seems to want to talk about that, even though they have no problem discussing the Steelers well-documented problems on offense.

If Arizona can't run the ball against the No. 1 defense, quarterback Kurt Warner is going to have to win the game on his own.

Expect Warner to have a busy day.

The Steelers can stop Arizona's high-powered attack. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald is great, but the Steelers have faced great receivers all season.

The Steelers won't make wholesale changes for this game. You'll see the same defenses they've run all season. The Steelers are too confident and have too much pride to alter everything for one player, even someone of Fitzgerald's caliber.

Arizona's offense is on fire. But the Steelers' defense has been on fire all year. They have an impeccable knack for making big plays at just the right time.

That said, Arizona's defense is the key to winning Super Bowl XLIII.

If Arizona can't make enough big plays on offense, the Cardinals' defense is going to have to win the game.

The Cardinals are going to have to create turnovers against a Steelers offense that turned the ball over once in two playoff games in miserable weather conditions.

The Cards will try to stop running back Willie Parker and pressure quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

But if Baltimore couldn't keep Roethlisberger in the pocket, I don't see how Arizona can. If the Steelers found holes in the Ravens' secondary, they'll find even more in the Cardinals' back line of defense featuring rookie cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

If Fitzgerald is the hottest receiver in the playoffs, Santonio Holmes is the second-hottest. Holmes has a favorable matchup against the Cardinals' secondary, and he's playing with a high level of confidence.

Roethlisberger has become a different quarterback in the postseason. He's getting rid of the ball quicker, he isn't forcing throws into coverage, and he's been much more accurate. He's even checking down to his running backs more. Heck, he's completed four passes in the postseason to fullback Carey Davis, of all people, compared with only five completions to Davis in the regular season.

That might not seem like much, a few completions to a little-used running back, but Roethlisberger's ability to spread the field and utilize all of his weapons makes the Steelers' offense less predictable and more dangerous.

It's one more reason to make the Steelers the team to beat in Super Bowl XLIII. Make it Steelers, 24-17.

Additional Information:

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Additional Information:

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The rosters: Steelers and Cardinals

The numbers: Steelers and Cardinals

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